In the middle of September, planners from across Mississippi and Alabama convened on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to discuss the latest innovations in land use policy and community design. The conference, which was held at the Beau Rivage in the city of Biloxi, was a great opportunity to discover how cities and towns in our region are making strides towards becoming more resilient.
The theme for this year’s conference was “It’s not just land use anymore,” which was appropriate since many of the presentations touched upon ideas that go well beyond the usual zoning documents and comprehensive plans. Examples of the topics and subjects that go beyond the basic scope of land use include: historic preservation, legal analysis, environmental resilience and marine spatial planning. Many of these presentations are currently available on the Mississippi APA website, so feel free to review them to see the actions local communities have implemented to improve their quality of life.
Green infrastructure roundtable
Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant also made an impact upon the proceedings by organizing a roundtable discussion on green infrastructure. The first portion of the presentation provided an overview of the green infrastructure concept and some of the different techniques and regulatory options communities may employ to improve their existing stormwater capacity.
Jay Estes with Allen Engineering was also on hand to share his insights from two green infrastructure projects the organization was involved in on the Mississippi Coast: BB Jennings Park in Pascagoula and a Sea Level Rise Study created for the city of Ocean Springs.
Interactive, mobile workshops
It’s also worth noting the number of interactive, mobile workshops, which were held and highlighted innovative planning practices taking place right here in coastal Mississippi. Two prominent examples of this were a morning jog in Biloxi to highlight new downtown developments, such as the recently completed ballpark and a walking tour of the new alley improvements made in downtown Gulfport.
Understanding the impacts local regulations make to the physical realm is a major component of city planning and mobile workshops are a great opportunity to see how technical analysis and understanding translate into results in the real world.
The quest to forge more resilient communities will require a clear and comprehensive understanding of the ways in which urban and natural systems interact with each other. As a profession, planners are uniquely suited to address the challenges of improving local resilience since their professional lives are devoted to analyzing the various components and qualities that give rise to a livable city.
That is why the presentations and insights from this year’s planning conference should have great bearing on the policies that coastal scientists and policy professionals pursue as they try to improve resilience not just in the immediate region, but also in the Gulf of Mexico as a whole.